IF there is one place in the CNMI that provides the perfect location for driving around at your leisure and following all roads free from the thought that someone from behind will blow their horn, it is the island of Rota.
This untouched gem in the Pacific, which carries loads of character and charm, is about a 30 minute plane ride from Saipan and boasts pristine beaches, beautiful underwater wonders, rich green jungles, cool mountains, cultural and historical memorabilia scattered all over the place.
A trip some months back to Rota gave me the chance to experience what it was to drive at my leisure, stopping every now and then to take photos of whatever caught my attention and just “follow the road wherever it leads,” things you cannot do anywhere on Saipan or you face the risk of slamming your car into a tree or into another car.
Driving from the airport and heading toward the famed latte stones all the way to the Bird Sanctuary is an exciting experience for any first time visitor in the island.
When you drive from Sinapalo to Songsong village, roll down your windows and grab the opportunity to breathe all the fresh sea air you would want and feast on the beautiful coastal views along the way.
Having a whole day to myself gave me the freedom to drive at my own pace and drive through used and seemingly abandoned roads to satisfy my curiosity to where the roads lead and what was at the other end.
Driving on an unfamiliar road adds to the thrill and often times I reached a dead ends but it was always easy to turn back, retrace your way and venture into another road.
My aimless driving brought me to abandoned hotels and resorts that once thrived with life and laughter.
I roamed around and took images of dilapidated buildings almost obscured by thick vines and shrubbery and left at the mercy of the harsh elements of nature while fighting the goose bumps that one gets while exploring abandoned places all alone, even in broad daylight.
Driving toward the jungles at the foot of Sabana Mountain on the afternoon of my second day put an end to all my illusions that I was brave enough.
As I drove through the road that became narrower as I went deeper into the jungles, I was losing the nerve to go down and just snapped images from my driver’s seat.
The road suddenly took a curve when I reached a portion where thick vines hanging from the trees obscured the way.
I stopped and stared at the road ahead, my imagination playing havoc on me.
With the late afternoon sun casting eerie shadows, it looked surreal, like a scene from a horror movie and I panicked.
The road was too narrow to turn back, and I was too scared to drive on.
Taking a deep breath, I was left with no choice but drive on and as soon as I reached the other side, it was all over and I was able to find a spot to turn back the car.
The experience did not mar my enthusiasm to drive around some more the following day. There are still more roads on Rota that I haven’t explored yet, but I will be back. One day.